Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I hope your Christmas was as wonderful as you had hoped.  Ours started early, but thankfully not too early.  The Mayor woke us up shortly before 8:00, which is a lot later than it used to be. Back in the day, the boys would wake us up well before 7:00 am.  My friends and family know how little I enjoy waking up early, so the super early Christmas wake up calls were tough!

Unquestionably, Christmas is much more meaningful as a parent.  Its not that I don’t like getting gifts; its just that giving them is so much better.  In our house, opening gifts happens like a hurricane as the boys tear open their gifts.  This year their Christmas lists were markedly smaller than previous years.  Although they did include some interesting items like: a teacup pig, a puppy, a tegu, a bearded dragon, and a MacBook.  Unfortunately, there was no teacup pig or puppy under the tree this year.

After they opened their gifts, the Hubby and I got to work preparing for brunch.  He made his famous Cholesterol Bake (totally worth every calorie,) while I finished my caramel rolls and started the bacon.   Additionally, we had to get our drink bar ready.  We had plenty of OJ and champagne/asti for mimosas.  Moreover, this year we added a coffee bar, so my bro brought cold brew coffee and we paired it with Bailey’s and/or Ciroc French Vanilla vodka.  To the uninitiated, the coffee (we used Stok) with Bailey’s and vodka is smooth and absolutely sublime.

While I finished cooking the 85 lbs of bacon and rolls, the boys played show and tell with their menagerie.  They were more than happy to share their animals with our guests.  After showing off Lil’ B (our little beardie,) Goalielocks and the Mayor brought down their two chameleons.  Surprisingly, Goalielocks was able to get the normally shy chameleons to eat in front of company.  Of course it’s a bit of a show when the chameleons eat.

Fortunately, all of the food turned out awesome.  Surprisingly, we didn’t end up in a food coma after eating copious amounts of caramel rolls, cholesterol bake and bacon.  Once brunch was done, the boys headed outside to play football.  Unlike Minnesota, which was -5 this morning, we were balmy in the 70s this morning.  For paintball we were in the low 80s, but without too much humidity.

This year we went to paintball a little later with a 1:00 pm start time.  Unlike years past, the paintball place was completely crowded with groups of uninitiated paint  ballers.  We’ve done this for several years on Christmas not to mention the numerous birthday parties the boys have attended.   Nonetheless, I have zero patients for morons who shoot randomly when not on the field or take their masks off on the field.  Darwin would have been proud!

Straightaway, after getting our guns, we headed to the far fields away from the crowds.  We had the far fields to ourselves for over an hour before a couple of the inexperienced and not so bright groups came on over.  Despite the ineptitude of the people around us, we managed to have a good time.

Our group was pretty small, so we stuck to the smaller fields.  We split up the teams a number of different ways to make interesting throughout the day.   The adults took it to the kids several times, but don’t worry they got us back.  Both the Mayor and Goalielocks have their own guns, which are far more powerful than the rental guns.  Both took me out several times from afar.  I didn’t even have a chance since my gun couldn’t shoot that far.

In one round, Jake, Brandi and I played against my brother and my two younger kids.  My brother came running across the field, thinking there was cover (there wasn’t) and all three of us shot him simultaneously.  Whoops!  Thank goodness my brother is a good sport!

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Between rounds, we Face-timed my parents from Paintball and was able to speak to everyone there, which was awesome.  I definitely miss seeing my family and extended family this time of year.  I have many cherished memories that  I have from holidays spent with my grandparents and extended family.  My hope for my boys is they cherish the traditions we’ve started that put a premium on time spent together having fun.

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Post-paintball we headed home and ordered some friend rice and chicken teriyaki.   Tonight we’re going to watch a movie on NetFlix and relax.  Unfortunately, tomorrow is Tuesday and not a holiday meaning most of us will be back at work.  Can you hear the collective boo?  I’ll leave you tonight with my favorite Christmas song.  This song performed by Mariah Carey is “All I Want For Christmas is You.”

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Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is here and almost gone.  Today was hectic and we rushed to finish our last minute shopping and preparations for Christmas day.  I think the boys will be happy with what they’re getting, but we’ll see.  Truthfully, I had hope to spend more money on experiences or even a trip than gifts.  Oh well, there’s always next year.  Its probably a shift that’s easier to make gradually than in one fell swoop.

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In addition to last minute errands, I had (and still have) a lot of baking today.  I made another round of mint cookies today in addition to krumkakes and toffee candies.  Fortunately, all three of the items turned out really good.  As I write this, I’m starting to make the main star of tomorrow’s brunch — the caramel rolls.  Ah yes, no less than 1,000,000 grams of carbs and sugar in these beauties, but they’re completely worth it.   Honestly, all calories on Christmas should be free, I think Santa would totally agree.

Krumkakes are a traditional Norwegian cookie that I was excited to try making this year.  After all, I have both cloud berry and blueberry jam from Norway to pair with the cookie, so now is the perfect time.  In order to bake said cookies, however, I had to order a krumkake iron.  I opted for a new school plug and play model versus the old school iron you heat up over a burner.  I think we can all agree that nothing good would come from me using an old school iron.

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The dough is quite simple to make.  You can use either vanilla or almond extract to flavor the cookie  Today I used vanilla as that is what I had on hand.  Once the dough has been mixed up, you bake one cookie at a time on the iron.  These cookies cook quite quickly albeit individually.  Moreover, once they come of the iron, you need to shape them around the cone to get their famed conical shape.

My first attempt at shaping a krumkake was lackluster, but I had also overcooked the cookie.  After the first couple of cookies, I got the process down pat.  You can definitely bake these cookies by yourself.  However, it would be easier to an assistant help shape the cookies once they come off the iron.

After all the baking, we headed to my brother’s house for some games, movies and appetizers.  Before though I had to make a pit stop at Walgreen’s for some whipped cream and dollar bills.  I had no cash on me and we needed singles, so we could play Left Right Center at Jon’s.  You can only imagine the look the clerk gave me when I asked for my change ($20) is singles, but I digress.

We quickly ate our appetizers once we got to Jon’s, so we could start playing Left Right Center.  Goalielocks didn’t want to spend any money (even though I was funding), so he manned the music tonight.  Per usual, the game was not mild.  Both the Mayor and Jake ended up winning two games, while both Brandi and I won a game.  Throughout the games, the Mayor was full of witty one-liners.

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Once the money dried up, it was time for krumkakes.  I served them with whipped cream and either blueberry or cloud berry jam.  They were absolutely heavenly.  Moreover, I forgotten how much I loved the Norwegian jam.  I have yet to find either cloud berry jam or a good blueberry jam stateside.  When my family goes in January, I hope they bring some more back for us. Hint, hint…..

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Now it’s off to finish wrapping presents and baking caramel rolls.  Tonight’s song performed by Mariah Carey  is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

Christmas in Florida

Christmas in Florida

This year we will celebrate our 13th Christmas in Florida after relocating to the area in 2005.  It seems like just yesterday that we moved South with Jake going into 1st grade and Goalielocks as a toe-headed toddler.  The Mayor was but a twinkle in our eye when we moved South.

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Our first couple of Christmas’ we headed back North to Minny to celebrate with the family.  This only lasted a couple of years because the holiday dinner circuit was exhausting.  It was tough only being in Minny for a couple of weeks because it never felt like we got enough time with everyone.  Inevitable, someone always ended up mad because we hadn’t spent enough time at their house or with their family.  It got old quick.

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While we were stressed, the boys loved the snow and being home with family for Christmas.  At least until Christmas of 2007.  We headed northwards for 2.5 weeks.  The weather when we landed was perfect, but that quickly changed.  In a mere 72 hours, the balmy mid-20 degree weather was gone and the temperature was well below zero. Damn Alberta clipper!  For the remainder of our time in Minny, we were homeward bound.  It was far too cold to take our boys out in the subzero weather.  Consequently, as we prepared to head back to Florida, I informed my parents that we wouldn’t be heading north for Christmas anymore.

Since 2007, we’ve spent Christmas here in Florida.  It’s significantly less stressful for us and more enjoyable.  In 2009, we started sending the boys to Minny for the summer, so they got ample time to spend with our entire family.   We miss seeing our family and the beautiful snow, but the novelty wears off far too quick now.  Plus, we’ve headed Northward for the last 5 years for out of state hockey tournaments.  We’ve had no shortage of winter weather.

Several years ago, we started a tradition of a Christmas brunch with my bro, his wife and friends.  I bake my caramel rolls, while the Hubby makes an amazing cholesterol bake.  Mimosas and presents about and everyone is happy.  In addition, we grew our tradition to include paintball.  Its amazing how much better you feel about all the caramels roll you eat after playing paintball for hours in the heat.  We conclude our Christmas with Chinese food.  Its not the most traditional Christmas, but it’s our Christmas.

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There are a couple of places I would love to celebrate Christmas..  My list of places includes: Norway, Germany (Christmas markets), France with my French family, Hawaii, Iceland and maybe even another Christmas in Minny.  If you could celebrate Christmas anywhere, where would it be?

Tonight’s song is “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlmen” as performed by The Pentatonix.

 

Last Night in Bergen

We had a brilliant lunch post Bergen aquarium near Bryggen with our family before J&B headed to catch the bus for Stavanger.  Tomorrow they’ll be on the hike of their life making their way up to Pulpit Rock.   Our waiter was incredible and bought us a round when the fryer broke and our food took longer than normal.  This was a great gift as beer and cider are extremely expensive in Norway even by South Florida standards.  The food was worth the wait and I enjoyed my fish an chips along with my cider.

 

Post lunch we hit the shops to find some useful souvenirs.  The Mayor found a nice knife he can use for fishing while Goalielocks selected a viking horn that sounds a bit like a kazoo.  The kazoo piece wasn’t intentional, so we’ll be looking for another viking horn for the house.   Jake got a nice Norwegian flag he can hang in his room.

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After two ciders at lunch, my favorite local coffee shop Dromedor was calling my name.   Not too far geographically from the tourist hub, but miles away in terms of its customer base.  This is a great local spot with quality coffee and pastries.   I have quite enjoyed their lattes these past couple of days in Bergen.

For dinner our kids wanted frozen pizzas, which was a complete godsend.  Food is extremely expensive in Norway and this was a perfectly economical way to feed the kids.        Post Pizza we headed to the wold famous fish market to meet J&M (my older bro and family), my grandma and my parents.

They were finishing up their dinner and afterwards we headed for dessert and shuffleboard.  We ended up at the same restaurant where we ate and drank yesterday as it had several shuffleboard tables where the kids could play and not interrupt all of the diners’ dinners.

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After two rousing shuffleboard tournaments, Priya and Zak and I emerged as champions.   Somehow I managed to figure out how to score a couple of points, which was enough for me to be successful.  The kids had a blast and enjoyed their desserts throughout the tournament.

After shuffleboard, we said adieu to our favorite spot, Bergenhus Bryggeri, and headed out to walk the city.   For the first time, we headed up Kong Oscars Gate where X&P found an awesome and cheap hot dog stand.  The group continued to make friends with dog owners and their dogs.   Norwegians love their dogs and take them everywhere.  Their dogs are meticulously groomed and extremely well behaved.

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As the sun started to descend in the sky, we headed back to our AirBnB to pack for our trip to Stavanger.  We have absolutely loved our time in Bergen and will be returning to this wonderful city hopefully soon.

Cousins

Cousins Experiencing Norway Together

One of the best parts of this trip thus far is the time our boys are getting to spend with their cousins X, P and Kai. Since we live in Florida and X & P live in Minnesota and Kai in Seattle, the kids don’t get to see each other nearly as much as they would like to. This is a trip that they’ll savor because of the good times they shared with their cousins.

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